THE MEDIOCRITY CYCLE
“Mediocrity is climbing molehills without sweating.”
I sit alone in my four cornered room staring at import publications. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I’m prone to a moodswing or three, but I spent the last few days aware of my age and convinced that I’d finally outgrown most of the things I spend my days doing. In a curious way I was relieved. Something had to give, right? Everything was fine — I’d just over indulged during the last decade. Then I realised that for once, I wasn’t the problem.
My mind was playing tricks on me. My passion remains — it’s the system I’m overexposed to that bores me. The same one that treats you like a prick. Please allow me to indulgent and engage in one of my thrice yearly rant posts, using WordPress as my metaphorical punching bag for a few paragraphs.
It was nice to realise that I do still give a shit. But people really are peddling some drivel with a po-face and smelling their own farts before retweeting the sychophantic reaction to the odour again and again. I don’t care what you’re into…toy trains, weather reports, scat porn…just as long as you’re passionate about something. The secret rulers of much that I love are dead-eyed capitalists with bootcut jeans on — we need a coup d’état. I refuse to believe that every fanboy and fangirl is inept when it comes to business.
It’s curious to see a hyped-out breed of collaboration culture continue its molasses slow, treacly flow into every facet of life — it’s even present in beverages and furniture. But I still find myself rushing out to get involved from time to time. What truly alienates me is the onslaught of brand events (with an inadvertent sense of anti-aspiration, because they’re populated and targeted at the denizens of a two mile square radius) caught in some kind of nightmarish loop of PR-led mediocrity that take the brilliance of a concept like Nike’s billboard project with UNDFTD or ‘Beautiful Losers’ or even White Dunk (please allow for the excess of Nike reference points) or ‘Contents Under Pressure’ at the Tramshed way, way back and keep flogging the formula until it begs for mercy, weeping to be put out of its misery with a bullet to the brain to end the banal begging for blog coverage.
There’s a checklist for these things:
1. Bad “street art” interpretations of the brand’s logo and product by a plethora of weary looking individuals, all paid a fraction of the budget handed to the agency. These will be painted on the side of an “edgy” space or weak temporary retail spot.
2. A photography exhibition by friends and friends of friends of a brand’s employee with Terry Richardson-lite imagery of misadventures and hi-jinks, all with the vaguest relevance to the product at hand.
3. A DJ who gets paid in product that turns out to be too big for them.
4. More SLRs in the building than there are canapés.
4. Some kind of “workshop” about something or other that’s supposed to emphasise interactivity and youth.
5. Some kind of social media tie in, whether it’s #ashittylittlehashtag or some kind of Facebook group where you can “earn” the right to get in. That’s important because it makes brands hand over more money – people with budgets have heard some buzzwords and have been told that the internet’s quite good.
6. A person with Final Cut skills who will film the same group of blogwear-clad faces (85% of whom are “stylists”) — who would turn up to the opening of your catflap —munching on mini fish and chips, some shots of the product being launched (even though it was on the blogs at sample stage a month earlier) and maybe some talking heads who will extoll how exciting and fresh the project is while remaining utterly surface level. If it’s really professional, it could have opening titles and end titles with a Zomby track playing over them. The three minute fruits of this labour are apparently called “a viral” even though it’s merely a short video made solely to make some bloke called Dan who owns a Johnny Cupcakes t-shirt, owns two Dunny toys and holds the purse strings write “good work!” in an email the following day.
It’s all a game of bamboozling the budget holders.
Of course, there’s other irritations along the way. Middlebrow brands can get someinexplicable levels of e-props. Folksy factory visits on Vimeo of absolutely anything in the continual quest for the deification of the deeply average, paying tribute to there officially being more collaborative brogues than there are people on the planet (though when it’s fashion we say “for” rather than the vulgar xxxxxs of the streetwear realm — same shit, same lack of confidence in solo voyages). People calling themselves “curators” because they put a picture of decidely non-obscure jazz man John Coltrane on their Tumblr makes them the curators of a museum of blurry photocopies. Nobody’s paying money to visit that establishment. Though I’m sure Dan with the budget might give them a job.
FUCK YOUR FUCKING SEO
Then there’s the obligation to bow at the alter of fucking SEO online. That means you have to mention keywords – for instance, fucking SEO – numerous times. Keep sentences on fucking SEO short. Make fucking SEO keywords and terms around six percent of your copy, put something in bold, add a fucking SEO header and disturbingly, some schools of thought recommend common misspellings of fcucking SOE in the mix too. This paragraph fails because it’s not at the top of the page and the font is probably the wrong size. I’ll never get those page impressions up at this rate. Thus, the dull gets duller.
Thanks for listening. The positivity’s back. Everyone needs to make like Howard Beale every now and again or the world turns into one triple-label blur. Practise that blind PMA a little too much and your soul erodes. Anger is still an energy.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Bobby Hundreds Complex piece. I’ve long been a fan of the way the brand presents itself online. Every brand has a WordPress now, but Bobby’s writing and photography had us convinced the Hundreds was huge before it ever was, with the web presence outsizing the physical store space — that’s a skillful use of the internet. I still check for the Hundreds site for that precise presentation and updated content.
The racist and bizarre vitriol against a lack of LRG when the writer explained their omission in a reasoned manner. You can’t see ‘em coming down their eye, so a lot of embittered brand operatives made the Complex.com comments section cry — rumours of “streetwear”s death are greatly exaggerated, but reading those responses it’s easy to understand why everyone started dressing like their dads in late 2007.